Biotech Updates

Radio Identified as Powerful Tool for Communicating Agri-Biotech

February 11, 2011

Radio has demonstrated powerful potential in communicating agricultural biotechnology to a range of stakeholders in Africa. This came out strongly during an experience-sharing workshop for Kenyan scientists, farmers, extension officers, and journalists who took part in a three-month radio campaign on agricultural biotechnology. The workshop was organized by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) AfriCenter in Nairobi, Kenya on February 2, 2011.

The radio campaign is part of an IDRC-funded project that is assessing the utility of radio in communicating agricultural biotechnology, using Kenya and Burkina Faso as case studies. The project is being implemented by ISAAA AfriCenter and its partners. The radio programs were aired in three vernacular radio stations, located in areas where biotech crops under research in Kenya such as Bt maize and Bt cotton are expected to be introduced. Scientists, majority of whom had never appeared on radio, initially experienced media phobia particularly in using vernacular languages, but as the programs progressed they gained confidence and enjoyed sharing their knowledge with the audience. Their main challenge was in translating technical terms into vernacular language.

Extension workers, who were responsible for tracking changes among a selected listening group of farmers during the radio campaign, reported that farmers' understanding of agricultural biotechnology improved with continued broadcasting. Farmers' need for more knowledge on biotechnology crops was demonstrated by their request for continued airing of biotech programs. They indicated willingness to adopt biotech crops by requesting to be considered among the first to receive the seeds when they become available.

Journalists also gained self-confidence and at the end of three months indicated that they can handle the topic well. They enjoyed a vast audience of listeners, including their radio managers. "At the end of the radio campaign, my boss who had been listening to the programs decided to allocate an extra hour to continue airing shows on agricultural biotechnology to satisfy the rising demand," shared Lucy Wahome, journalist at Coro FM.

These experiences indicate that vernacular radio stations are powerful tools for communicating agricultural biotechnology not only to the farmer but also to other stakeholders that should be harnessed. However, it is imperative to build capacity among experts and resource persons for communicating agricultural biotechnology in various local languages and to develop a glossary of terms in the commonly spoken languages for consistency in interpretation of technical terms.

For more information, contact Dr. Margaret Karembu, director, ISAAA AfriCenter at